On Wisteria lane

These are from the Wisteria lane (of Desperate Housewives fame) set at NBC Universal Studios in Hollywood, California. Though the show has concluded the set is still on display for tourists. The only house that has an actual restroom to use is Lynette’s!

Gabriel's house

Gabriel’s house

Susan's house

Susan’s house


Lynette’s house

Bree's house

Bree’s house



What’s all the fuss about Vishwaroopam?

Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam is no big deal as was made out to be. The movie was banned briefly in Tamil Nadu, the south Indian state out of which it was produced by the veteran actor. The reason being that certain Muslim groups were protesting. While for the regular Tamil cinema-goer, the movie may seem to be amazing with the added plus of watching their Ulaganayagan (Universal hero). But for the Tamilian in me, the movie was quite a bore.

Vishwaroopam talks about a subject that has been featured in films across the world umpteen numbers of times already. Terrorism. Haasan has attempted to give a slightly different twist, and I must say failed almost completely. I say ‘almost’ only because of the first one hour of the movie. The first one hour of the movie is the kind of Kamal Haasan movie the Tamilian in me enjoys immensely. It reminded me a bit of Avvai Shanmukhi. (When Avvai Shanmukhi released not many of us had seen Mrs Doubtfire, so there was no question of comparing Haasan to Robin Williams. The movie was a massive hit. It was one of Haasan’s best roles.)

Haasan’s role as a middle-aged kathak teacher in New York City is a delight to watch. The typical Brahmin Tamizh. His feminine expressions. The way he struts across the street. And of course, the most important of all, his dance. Superb. Unfortunately, we don’t get to enjoy too much of this as his cover is blown. And that’s where the movie begins to fail miserably. The flashback to Haasan’s role as a mole (he is an agent of India’s Research and Analysis Wing) in the Al Qaeda is loose and uninteresting. For starters, they talk in Tamizh. While they claim to know Tamizh because of having hidden in Tamil Nadu, for a terrorist outfit that prides itself for its culture (in reality), they sure wouldn’t sit and talk in that language. (If you have read enough books about the Middle East, the Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, you would know this. I’m not sure why Haasan didn’t feel this could be an issue).

For a good 1.5 hours the movie revolves around what Haasan did in Afghanistan. Haasan looks so out of place amidst the Al Qaeda. If I were Omar (played by Rahul Bose) in real life, I would have so known something was up. But the Al Qaeda matter-of-factly took this man in and allowed him to train jihadis. Even the explanation that the Indian Army wants his head, which is shown in a poster, is not believable. The guys at Al Qaeda are surely not that dumb.

And so, talking about dumb, it seems like it is this unbelievable portion of the movie that raised heckles and caused all the banning nonsense. If people took issue to the fact that Haasan is a Muslim in the film and he talks about the Al Qaeda, I don’t understand what the issue is. No where does he bring religion in. He happens to be a RAW agent who is a Muslim by religion. The Al Qaeda happens to be an organisation that is primarily Islamic. Nothing controversial at all.

If anyone had to take issue, maybe the Brahmins, Iyers and Iyengars of the world could, objecting to the roasting of a chicken.

And maybe even George W Bush. His photo is seen used for target practice by the jihadis.

Even the ending of the movie with the Caesium bomb and defusing it using a microwave oven, is all just boring.

Andrea Jeremiah’s role is unnecessary. I’m not sure why she is even in the movie. Shekhar Kapur looks uncomfortable. Rahul Bose is okay. Pooja Kumar has done a decent job. Haasan’s role is interesting in the first one hour of the movie.

All in all the movie was definitely not very enjoyable. If I thought Dashaavataram was bad, this was definitely not better. I’m not sure why Haasan even made the movie. There was nothing really exciting about the story. If he made it for the fight sequences and audio effects, I’m not sure that is reason enough. After so many movies and so many years of acting, he may have made this movie to experiment, which he can afford to.But I, as a not-so-regular Tamil movie-goer, would like to see Haasan in a movie similar in genre to Panchathanthiram or Pammal K Sammandham.

As for Vishwaroopam 2, I’m not sure I’ll be in line to watch.

Note: I’m still trying to figure why the movie is titled ‘Vishwaroopam’. Plus, does India’s RAW really do so much work in reality?

Vicky Donor’s got it all wrong

I recently watched the movie Vicky Donor, a movie that has received critical acclaim and box office success. I for one have some issues with some basic points made in the movie and probably also with the basic premise. The movie, no doubt, has opened up a discussion about sperm donation. However, the way it has approached this subject is quite abominable.
1. Sperm donation is generally known to be done anonymously. And one does not go to an infertility clinic seeking donor sperms. An infertility clinic offers options. One of them could be sperm donation. The infertility clinic wouldn’t have to manually go in search of these donors. They would ideally have to deal with a sperm bank. I’m not too sure how this was done or if this was even done before the concept of sperm banks came about. Vicky Donor seems to throw black paint on all of this and Dr Chaddha goes hunting for the best sperm ever.
2. Sperm donation cannot happen from just one person. There are rules and regulations about how many times you can donate. In the movie, we see the protagonist fathering 53 babies. I mean, come on, that is not only not possible but also illegal. If the same person donated sperms, it would mean seeing similar genes in a section of people which is not really a good thing.
3. A sperm donor never really comes in contact with the person/family that receives it. Here of course we see the lead character showing off his ‘prodigies’ to his wife.

But I guess what really misses the mark for me with this movie is the fact that the problem of infertility seems to be taken so lightly. Coming of age is one thing. Being plain immature about it is another. That too for entertainment.

A big thumbs down for me.

The Dirty Picture – A misconstrued film

Vidya Balan has had her share of limelight now. She has arrived, they say. With her bold and sexy portrayal of Silk in The Dirty Picture, she is coming to be known as a feminist icon. But everyone seems to be getting it all wrong. Everyone seems to be celebrating, without realising that they actually don’t have much to celebrate about. At least not much for us women.

A little bit of cleavage, thunder thighs and smoking a few cigarettes, seems to have gotten Vidya a lot of praise. Embrace your sexuality, wear it on your sleeve, this is the new Indian woman, etc etc.

Well, for a country that has almost always made it clear that women are inferior to men, it is no wonder that Vidya is now receiving standing ovations. And that’s where it’s all wrong.

For starters, I did not think much of The Dirty Picture. Vidya Balan may have done some ‘bold’ scenes in her ‘bold’ character. I would give her a few points for that. But the movie says absolutely nothing new to me. When there was a real Silk Smitha, why will I as a viewer feel that a person who acts like Silk Smitha to be much better. And cleavage and thunder thighs are not new to Indian cinema. At least not to the Tamizh film industry. How many of you have heard of Ramya or Mumtaz or Disco Shanti. The bold Indian woman who embraces her sexuality has for long been depicted in films. It’s just that Bollywood seems to have gotten into a ‘Eureka’ moment, and Vidya seems to have been dubbed to be Archimedes. The Dirty Picture has been shot as aesthetically as possible. It’s not meant to be a sleaze movie. That said, it is a sleaze movie. I mean, how different is it?

In The Dirty Picture, Vidya Balan’s character starts off like a typical Tamizh girl wearing a half saree who suddenly in front of the camera, starts biting her lip and makes suggestive movements in a dance sequence. She then exudes this chemistry with Naseeruddin Shah, sleeps with him and gets mad at him when he is with his wife. See, the story is nothing new. And neither is Vidya’s character. I mean, if she won a national award, shouldn’t Silk Smitha when many more? You may say that today’s audience is more forward-thinking, more broad-minded. No doubt we are. But are we also an audience to believe that exposing your cleavage and biting your lip is going to add to women power?

The Dirty Picture may have been the kind of movie that an audience of today wanted to see. I mean, you may have looked at with wrinkled eyebrows if you went out to see such a movie say ten years ago. Today, it’s not that bad.

Vidya is being hailed for her portrayal of the character. A mainstream actress doing a film that many may not. That’s all there is to it. All the applause is for Vidya and her career. Nothing to do with feminism. Or little to do with feminism.

If women in Gurgaon are being told to finish work by 8 PM every night, is a movie like The Dirty Picture going to catapult us a few centuries ahead as far as how women are perceived? Well, the Gurgaon issue has come out well after the movie released.

I would give credit to The Dirty Picture for one thing. It’s done well without a ‘hero’ figure. And it’s nonsense to call Vidya the new Khan. Come one, she is a woman. Let her be one. And celebrate her as just that. Can’t we be better than men? Or do we need to be referred to as men when we do something just as well as them or maybe even better?

But coming back to my main point. In a nation where women are still suppressed, The Dirty Picture does very little to our advantage. When I am fighting for my rights, I don’t need the backing of cleavage and thunder thighs. I don’t need Vidya’s example. The fight is not entirely about the physical aspects of a woman. It’s the way women are viewed socially, domestically and professionally.

I’ll tell you what we need. We need daughters and sons to be treated equally. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Not your typical Rajini film

If you go with the expectations of punch lines and suave dialogues that is characteristic of a Rajinikanth film, Endhiran will sorely disappoint you. Yes, I finally watched it, especially after I heard that both my siblings who live abroad watched it the first weekend after release. I asked dad and he agreed, so I finally had the chance to take him to a ‘multiplex’. So it was probably all the more of an experience for him!

All these years, up till Sivaji (the last of his that I watched), Rajinikanth’s      films are sprinkled generously with his dialogues that include, “My way is a unique way”, “If I tell once, it’s like I’ve said it a 100 times”, “I will do what I say, I will also do what I don’t say”, and so on. And then there is his classic cigarette popping act.

Endhiran, unfortunately, offers none of this. To me it came off as a movie solely made to show off the use of animotrics or whatever that technology is called.

It’s worth a watch, no doubt, but it’s not the mass entertainer that the superstar’s films are generally known to be. Yes, for the kaka kada owner in Tirukoil, the movie will still be a big deal, that’s because of Rajinikanth and nothing else.

Like other Rajini movies, where one goes home genuinely satisfied and talking vehemently about the thalaivar’s new cheesy line, this movie doesn’t really give you much to take home.

The story is quite simple, scientist Professor Vaseegharan or Vasee invents a human android. It’s made to look and speak just like him, and is christened Chitti. The only problem with Chitti is that it is programmed to do whatever task it is told, with no thinking on its own, as a result of which several mishaps occur. This is also the reason why Vasee’s mentor Prof Bora refuses to accredit the invention. That’s when Vasee modifies the robot to start thinking and feeling and here’s where problems begin.

This new ‘thinking’ robot begins to develop feelings for his creator’s girlfriend Sana (played by Aishwarya Rai). Chitti eventually falls into wrong hands and turns bad, out to destroy his creator and win over Sana.

As much as I don’t regret spending 280 rupees on a ticket, Endhiran is still not the quintessential Rajini film. There are many reasons for this.

One, in any Rajinikanth film, the star’s entry is always celebrated, either with some thumping music, song or interesting sequence. Endhiran is very ‘plain’ in that sense. Rajini makes no such entry.

Two. There’s no breath-taking climax like in Padayappa where Rajini takes off his shirt and fights some goons. Instead, you witness the use of technology where a hundred or more Rajinis get into formations. The use of technology maybe impressive here, but it shows nothing of the star that Rajini is.

Three. Like I said before, there are no punch lines and hard-hitting dialogues. It’s only towards the end that Rajini in his Chitti avatar says how problems arise when feelings and emotions are evolved. It’s these kind of dialogues that Rajini is known for. Alas, that’s probably the only dialogue in the film that strikes home a message.

Four. The comedy in the movie is very sparse. Rajinikanth is known for his comedy as well, but in Endhiran he is all alone in this. The scene where the evil Chitti imitates a sheep was very simple, but very funny as well, going to show how much this 60-odd year old actor can do.

Five. The film may have been the most expensive ever in Asia, but the use of ‘Hollywood’ effects did nothing much for me. It looked expensive but didn’t really stand out.

What did stand out was in fact, as odd as this is going to sound, the chemistry between Rajinikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. With at least a three decade age difference between them, the two looked absolutely good together. The song Electron Neutron is beautifully picturised and the duo look stunning together. (My dad says Ash was important for the film and that it would not have met with so much success if it were some other heroine!)

Aishwarya has nothing much to do in the movie, but nevertheless, she looks gorgeous. No Yash Raj film could probably showcase her so beautifully. Her clothes are lovely, she dances beautifully and compliments Rajinikanth. Full marks to the couple.

For me it was the evil Chitti who stood out. It brought out the Rajini that we are all familiar with (even if it was in a negative role).

So all in all, paisa vasool? Probably yeah. Typical Rajini film? Nope. The use of technology? Not impressive. Eye-candy Rajini and Ash? Totally!